5 Steps for Slaying the Doubt Dragon

Dubious the Doubt Dragon

Do you deal with bouts of doubt?

I do.


Doubt is one of Twelve Troublemakers who plague me as a writer. I’ll explore one a week, beginning with this most persistent of pests.

How do I know when doubt has me in its claws? I see the signs.

Symptoms of Doubt

Negative chatter ~ As writers, we often hear voices in our heads. When those voices belong to our characters, listening to them can be fun. But when Dubious the Doubt Dragon chimes in, watch out!

“You call yourself a writer? What a joke! Your work is nothing special.”
“You’ll never succeed, so why bother trying?”
“This is garbáge! Don’t waste your time pursuing pipe dreams.”

Lack of self-confidence ~ Bombarded by the Doubt Dragon’s drivel, our belief in our abilities wavers. Uncertainty gets a foothold.

Indecision ~ When we become unsure of ourselves, we’re hesitant to work on our stories. We know we supposed to be writing, but we can’t decide whether to revise a past story, edit the current one, or start something new, hoping a fresh start will restore our confidence.

Paralysis ~ Lack of self-confidence coupled with indecision cripples us, and we’re unable to write. We can sit at our computers, fingers poised over the keyboard, unable to look at our stories for fear they’re every bit as bad as the Doubt Dragon would have us believe. Unable to break free, we give up, waiting for the debilitating doubts to disappear.

How to Slay the Doubt Dragon

Refuse to listen to the negative chatter. ~ When the Doubt Dragon starts spewing lies, don’t buy into it. Speak truth instead.

“I’m a writer. My stories and my voice are unique—and special.”
“Others have succeeded. I can, too.”
“Pursuing my dream is a valuable use of my time.”

Surround yourself with supportive people. ~ Spend time fostering mutually beneficial friendships with like-minded peopleand then spend time with them. When you’re facing doubts, they’ll be there to encourage and support you.

Keep a sunshine folder. ~ I heard this term on Gina Holme’s February 2, 2011 post at Novel Journey, “What is it really like to be published?” She said her sunshine folder is the place she puts uplifting letters and email from her readers, which she keeps “to read on days I feel like a miserable hack.”

For those of us not yet receiving fan mail from readers, we can included positive feedback from contest judges, encouraging emails from writer friends and critique partners, copies of special comments left on our blogs . . .

Create an “I Rock!” Gallery. ~ My office walls are filled with motivational words and sayings. Interspersed are certificates of contest finals and wins, my first published magazine article, and a copy of a letter from a published author who critiqued the first chapter of my book and said really nice things about it. Putting such things up where we can see them can serve as a reminder of our successes and give us proof that the Doubt Dragon is just talking smack.

Keep writing. ~ One of the best ways to ward off attacks from the Doubt Dragon is to write. The mere act of working on our stories can serve to restore our confidence and renew our enthusiasm. Immersed in our story worlds, we’ll once again experience the joy of creation and can slay that Doubt Dragon.

* * *

Your Dealings with Doubt . . . and a Drawing

What symptoms of doubt do you experience?

How do you combat your bouts of doubt?

One person who leaves a comment and answers one of the questions above will win the dragon pictured above. This little Folkmanis finger puppet might seem a stilly item for an adult, I know, but for me looking that Doubt Dragon in the eye and telling it to take a hike would be a good reminder not to let it get a foothold in my writing life. If you win and don’t want the little guy, you could always share it with a child or grandchild.

I’ll hold the drawing Sunday, February 13th and post the winner’s name in the post published the next day, when I’ll introduce the next of the Twelve Troublemakers.

Odds of winning vary based on number of entrants.
I’ll ship to U.S. and Canadian addresses only.
Offer void where prohibited.

About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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21 Responses to 5 Steps for Slaying the Doubt Dragon

  1. Martina Bedregal Calderón says:

    I am not a very self-confident person in some aspects, but in my writing I have never had any doubts, never hesitated and never been indecisive. Maybe because I mainly started to write stories, lyrics, poetry etc. not with the intention of having them published, but for myself (call it a therapy…lol) and for my friends. I was far too shy to think about going public. It was my friends who talked me into going more public with them, who said that I should try that.

    Writing was for me always a way to express myself (easier than talking, sometimes), to let friends know my emotions and to give my friends and myself hope in times with few hope and light. So I wrote and wrote without any hesitation…lol.

    Only in one case I left a story unfinished – for everything I was writing in there happened some months or years later (a quake, the war in Irak, an accident etc.).

  2. Martina Bedregal Calderón says:

    Love your doubt dragon!! 😀

  3. Doubt Dragon is so CUTE! If he were at my house, I’d hug him and hold him and call him George! Great post, Keli!


  4. Indecision is a big one for me – not just in writing but everything. Prayer helps me a lot. I often pray that God will give me the words He wants me to write. Knowing I’m not doing it alone keeps me going

  5. territiffany says:

    I deal with doubt all the time. I keep some of my first pusblished work posted in my office and that helps and surrounding myself with other writers who encourage me helps the most. You are such a cheerleader!!

    • Martina Bedregal Calderón says:

      True, I second that. Keli and some other people from this blog have given me the courage to go more public with my writing, too.

  6. Wendy says:

    I’m with Julie. I struggle with discernment more when I’ve been wallowing in lies. Great post and tips to combat the fiery beast.
    ~ Wendy

  7. candidkerry says:

    Thank you for this timely, funny post. I nodded while reading it. I deal with indecision/insecurity a LOT. It seems to be my biggest obstacle to overcome with my writing. I rely on God’s word to guide me and I pray when I get bombarded by the negative voices. Particularly because of the difficult subject matter I’ve tackled in my book, I’ve often had thoughts like, “why am I bothering?” or “who will want to read this?” I’m learning to discern that the negative, critical voices are not of God, so why should I listen to them?

    One verse the Lord lead me to shortly after I sent my manuscript to the CWG contest (He was wonderfully preparing me) was 1 Cor. 2:5…”Your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” Also, Psalm 118:8. I felt strongly that He was telling me, “don’t give up, but wait. Keep at it.” As always, He knows best.

    I remind myself through prayer and pep talks (usually with my mom:) that we’re all unique and we all have special gifts to offer with our writing and our stories.

    Thank you again for this spot-on post. It was literally like a deep breath of fresh air for me this morning (also like a good kick to get going with my writing;). I needed it.

    Take care!

  8. Susan Mason says:

    You are so dead on with this, Keli! I think all writers struggle with doubt. But something in us drives us to continue writing.

    I find it comforting to keep telling myself that everyone’s tastes are different. Some people will love our writing, some will hate it. Doesn’t mean it’s not good, or worthwhile.

    (Remind of this when I’m in a writing funk!)

    Happy writing everyone!


  9. T. Anne says:

    I can’t see how any writer is immune to any of these. It’s the only logical after effect of baring your naked soul for the world to see. Writing is such an intimate act, it might be less painful to run up and down the street naked at midnight. Less people would be exposed to your true form and they couldn’t rate your jaunt on Amazon.

    • Anne Barton says:

      Too funny, T. Anne! Amazon reviews of naked midnight runs are probably coming . . . 🙂

      • Martina Bedregal Calderón says:

        Luckily at midnight few people are on the streets….lol. Iagree with you, T. Anne, writing is very personal and publishing what you`ve written can make you feel very vulnerable…and doubtful.

  10. OK, this was exactly what I needed to hear today. I’m polishing up my first ever contest entry. I find when I’m not spending much time in the Word I struggle much more with self-doubt.

    And I love the “sunshine” box. Its my first critique from one of the Seekers that helps keep me going, so that is something I will always keep.

    • Martina Bedregal Calderón says:

      Good luck for your first contest entry, Julia! Fingers are crossed here for you! 🙂

  11. Lori Benton says:

    Great post, Keli. Aside from the months I was recovering from chemo fog, which turned out to be more a physical impediment than psychological, I don’t struggle with doubt to the point of paralysis. I think that’s because so far I’ve written first and foremost to entertain myself, and to explore deeper issues of my life in Christ that are important to me. That makes for a fun and profound experience that generates a joy that most of the time is stronger than the doubt, intimidation, frustration, or indecision that occasionally surface anyway. Writing is hard, but the joy it brings tips the balance in favor of pushing on.

  12. I definitely have my struggles with doubt, especially after a rejection or tough feedback from a contest or critique. But I always remind myself it’s just another step toward becoming a better writer. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to look over the good feedback we’ve received in the past. Sometimes I’ll read a favorite part in a story I’ve written and it gives me a boost to keep on keepin’ on! Thanks for the post!

  13. I may be experiencing doubt and not realizing it. I’ve been unable to get to my MS for a period of time now. I have been very busy with other things, but when I do have a moment, that ‘s not what I choose to do. Perhaps doubt is causing me to procrastinate.

    I am reading Jody Hedlund’s novel, The Preacher’s Bride. I had to put it down on Sunday and haven’t had a moment to get back to it today. I definitely like it. It’s a page turner. Blessings to you, Keli…

  14. Anne Barton says:

    When I feel doubt, I know I need to get back to the joy of writing. I like the way Stephen King describes it — “writing with the door shut.”

    And sometimes I write a long and whiny email to my CP. 😉

  15. Keli Gwyn says:

    I held the drawing for the dragon finger puppet, and the winner is Bonnie R. Paulson.

    Congratulations, Bonnie! I’ll be in touch. ~ Keli

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